fiction by Kathryn Megan Starks

August 22, 2011

1. He said, “It’s going to be fine,” and that’s when I knew he would kill me. We got out ofthe car.The grass was crunchy beneath my feet. It was cold. I wasn’t wearing anything. Butbefore that I met him at a pot luck.He’d complimented me on my rosemary potatoes. “Not too mushy,” he’d smiled, and thecorners of his eyes had crinkled in a very pleasing way.You would have thought he was charming, I think.2. It’s a silly thing to hate about yourself, but, I was born with stubby fingers and toes, a traitI share with only my paternal grandmother. By the time I was in fifth grade, it had been ruled outthat I would ever be a pianist, painter, or model, that I could ever be delicate of nature orconsidered slender—elegant—no matter how little I ate. Typing is difficult, too, just so youknow.Back then, I used to dream of being a large swan who couldn’t stretch out her neck. Sucha sad, pathetic feeling.I’d like to say, I’ve had it bad, being this petite.But the truth is. . . well, stumpy digits aren’t really something you can fix with plasticsurgery. I know because I’ve undergone seventeen procedures for the damage to my back alone.In the medical field, they call it “corrective” surgery. They’re not just correcting skin or spine,they’re realigning my past, reshaping events and poor decision leading to poor decision withscalpel blade and suture thread. Compared to that, stubby fingers just don’t measure up in the listof surgical priorities. Being short just isn’t that bad. And I never did have much threshold forpain.I used to have this fear of dying in a certain way, but they say once you come face to facewith it, that’s what cures you. I know what it’s like to be paralyzed from fear but to go throughthe motions of something. My hands, moving to the speed of his instructions.He had a gun. At some point, we were friends. He had made me feel safe because he wasso tall. I’d thought, no one will bother me when I’m with this guy.Probably, I would have had sex with him if he’d asked. It wasn’t a preference, but Iwouldn’t have said no under normal circumstances. Does that mean I had it coming?Trigger had spent a lot of time being my friend up until the day he tried to kill me. Wemet at coffee shops during lunch time a lot, but I’d never been to his house in the three monthssince I’d met him. I had the feeling that I didn’t want to go there. I don’t know why that didn’tseem weird to me. Would it have seemed weird to you?Now I’m not afraid of anything. I don’t sleep in my running shoes.3. I kept thinking he wasn’t going to do it until he missed the very first time. The sudden popin the air made my shoulders jerk, a patch of dirt exploding to my right, and then the second shothit me like a fiery kick in the back—low between the shoulder blades but just to the side of myspine. I pitched forward, hands outstretched, braced. Hitting the ground felt like crashing throughwater.I clawed and came out the other side, and it was still night. But looking up at the skybecame my eyes rolled back in my head, and it became harder and harder to see against myclosing lids. I glanced down.What had been his pair of feet approaching me became two. He stood and the otherhovered in front of me. Then he shot me two more times, each firing producing another pair offeet. Shiny, polished shoes and black dress socks, floating. Pressed tweed slacks, in stark contrastto his casual outfit.There was no pain, but at the same time there was a lot of pain.After that, he walked away, but the business men stayed, murmuring so I couldn’tunderstand. I caught words like “unsightly,” wisps of wind in my hair.I wanted to argue, it’s not fair to be judged when you’re dying. But that didn’t seem right. Icouldn’t be dying; it couldn’t end like this. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t stand so I crawled onhands and scraped shins through the thorny, dried up grass. I finally had enough leverage to peerup at their faces, skin withered away from the bones, and it was then that I ran.They didn’t follow me.There was a subdivision that was under construction. There wasn’t supposed to be anyoneliving there. There wasn’t any electricity or water hooked up, but when I beat on the door, a manopened up.He said, “First some dumbass kid crashes through my roof, damn near breaks his backand now look at me, carrying a naked girl around.”I said I was sorry he was so put out. I think that’s when my eyes rolled back into my head,again.He said, “I’m a god damned ambulance.”Anyway, it wasn’t nothing special what Trigger did to me. I found out he’d done the samething to at least four other women, probably more, though I was the only one that got shot. I wasthe only one who hadn’t gone to his house—that’s why it started like that, I think, with the gunand the leaving my car at the gas station. I was so mad that he left the door open with the dingding ding running my battery down.So many things seem stupid now when I think about it.In some cases Trigger spent up to a year getting to know his victim first. What’s threemonths compared to that? What’s anything?

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